The Arizal explains in Etz Chaim, Palace of Adam Kadmon, how the sefirot have both linear and circular aspects. He also connects this to the soul levels, the nefashot being the circular aspects and the ruachim the linear.

The circular aspects function the way that holiness is more and more distant from the center, whereas the linear aspects function the opposite, where holiness is more and more internal (the clothing of the partzufim on top of eachother).

However, it's not clear to me how these aspects (circular and linear) are related to each other. As humans we have both a nefesh and a ruach. How do these aspects relate? Would appreciate if someone could explain it to me.

  • can you provide a link to your source for this? examination of the material might help in providing an answer to your question. Feb 27, 2015 at 12:37
  • Etz Chaim, Palace of Adam Kadmon, Chapter 1.
    – Levi
    Feb 27, 2015 at 12:49
  • I see your source, but do you have it electronically? I can't look at the text if I don't have the sefer anywhere. Feb 27, 2015 at 12:59
  • No sorry, I dont have the electronic source, Im reading it from a sefer....
    – Levi
    Feb 27, 2015 at 13:21

1 Answer 1


The distinction being discussed there is סובב vs. ממלא - surrounding (like a wheel surrounds the spoke - but it isn't outside, it permeates, just not in relation to what it surrounds) vs. enclothing. Transcendence vs. Immanence.

Tanya Chapter 48 is a good starting resource for understanding the distinction.

In terms of the distinction in the soul, the difference is in how they are manifest. The Ruach expresses movement or speech, this is the soul expressing itself according to the makeup of the body. The mouth and throat make up speech, another part of the body cannot speak, because the soul's ability to speak is specifically tailored to the vessel of the appropriate part of the body.

Nefesh is the animating life force of the body which is expressed without the same level of differentiation, because it is relatively transcendent.

Within transcendence there are two basic divisions. The distant and the close. What this particular topic is speaking about is the "close" aspect. In Chabad Chassidus the example given to distinguish them is the difference between a house and clothing. Both surround, but clothing has to be sized to the individual. A house's size is not dependent or closely connected to the size of the occupant. Higher aspects of the soul than Nefesh speak to the "distant" aspect.

  • Yishai with all due respect, it appears to be that you are really describing is the distinction between surrounding lights, "Makifim", and inner lights, "Pinimiyim". In chapter 48, what the Alter Rebbe, is describing as circular lights, "Igulim", are the surrounding lights, "Makifim", of the linear lights. I learned this from Rav Yitzchak Ginsurgh's teachings. Besides the linear Sefirot having their own circular lights, "Igulim", there are actually a separate set of circular (really spherical) Sefirot, with their own inner and surrounding lights. Despite using the similarity of language, ...
    – Elchonon
    Nov 15, 2019 at 19:00
  • ... the Alter Rebbe is not refering to this latter set of Sefirot at all. That's how I understand this early page in Etz Chaim on a basic level. The dynamics between linear and circular Sefirot is nicely explained in Talmud Esser Sefirot of Rav Yehuda Lieb Ashlag. It's more involved than I can quickly explain at present.
    – Elchonon
    Nov 15, 2019 at 19:00

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .